April 25th, 2018
Jesse Gussow

So many artists do multiple types of art. They aren’t bound to just one medium. While typically it’s a single medium that they are most well known for, most of the artists that I’ve come across paint, draw, tattoo, illustrate, photograph, and do a plethora of other styles of art.  More often than not, they are not only doing one art style.

Tracy Campbell is one such artist who really does do it all, by always learning new and different mediums and crafts to help grow and improve herself. It really is spectacular to see how many different styles she can do. Her tattoo work is so varied and gorgeous; her line work outstanding! Even her paintings don’t stick to a single style. From her wicked bee piece to the sexy red lipstick piece and everything in between, it’s all different. She also does some wicked graphic designs that are quite cute and funny.




Where are you from?

Born and raised here in Colorado! I grew up in a small mountain town as an only child, so...that's probably why I'm kind of weird.



How did you get started in art?

The aforementioned 'only child'-ness is where it all started! I've been drawing ever since I was old enough to pick up a pencil, and I just loved it—it was a great way to entertain myself. Then over time, it was a creative outlet that allowed me to really flex my imagination, and it became a passion of mine. Because art is one of a few things that I'm pretty good at, I knew that I'd want to pursue it as a career in some form or another, so I'm very fortunate that I've been able to actually make that happen!



How long have you been tattooing? What made you get interested in tattooing?

I've been tattooing officially since 2010, following a two-year apprenticeship. At first, I wanted to go to school for graphic design, but I was really unsure about accruing so much debt so early on in life and had taken a year off after high school to think about it.

During that time, the step-dad of my boyfriend at the time, who was covered in tattoos, asked me if I'd ever thought of it as a career choice. I knew that I wanted a tattoo, but I'd never considered it as a career option! When I went to get my first tattoo a month or so later, I fell in love with the atmosphere. The rock music, the art on the walls, the laid-back environment that you can only get from a room of introverts—I loved it. It felt like I belonged there, and I've felt that way about the industry ever since.



What is your favourite medium to work with?

Aside from tattooing, I also work with acrylic paint, watercolor, pencil, and digital art. It's really hard to pick a favorite! I switch often between which ones I prefer—right now I'm really into digital art, but a few months ago I was on a roll with watercolor paintings! It just depends on my mood I think.



How would you describe your style?

For years, I've struggled to adhere to just one or two styles, so my body of work is just a plethora of different things, but I think it's mainly illustrative in nature. Even when I go for realism, the concept behind it is illustrative, and I tend to stylize most of my work in some way because I've always been a fan of cartoons and animation, and it creeps into a lot of my art, even when I don't mean for it to!



What are your favourite tattoos to do?

I'm mainly a fan of any tattoo where I get a little bit of artistic freedom! It's nice when the client trusts me and likes my style enough to let me use it in their tattoo design. As far as subject matter goes, I absolutely love tattooing animals and other organic forms. I've also been getting into the (highly illustrative, what a surprise...=D) neo-traditional style, so when I get a chance to do some of that, I'm always excited!



Which style would you like to be more proficient at?

Like I said, I've been getting into the neo-traditional art a lot more, and I'd love to get a good handle on that because I have such an appreciation for it. I'm also working on my black and grey realism though—I started out drawing realistic portraits in pencil and charcoal as a teenager, and I've found that doing so on skin is really, really fun. =)



What are your dreams and goals for the future?

I've accomplished quite a bit in my tattoo career, and I'm extremely grateful for the progress that I've made! One thing that I'd still like to do is guest spot in different states, and maybe someday even a different country! As far as the rest of my art career, I've been trying to branch out and become more involved in my local art community; I've done a couple art shows over the past two years, and it's so much fun! It's a great chance to connect with other local artists and gain connections, as well as gain exposure. My most recent one was a RAW Artist showcase in Denver, and it was an incredible experience! I'll also be showing at the Pancakes and Booze art show in Denver in April for the third time—it's an equally awesome experience full of some great local talent that I highly recommend seeing if you have the opportunity!

I also have a small Etsy shop, called Atomik Cupcake Designs, where I sell t-shirts, pins, buttons, and stickers, which focuses more on the Japanese kawaii and anime-style work that I do with my graphic design experience. Within the next two years, one of my dreams is to take that act to Denver Comic Con and see how well I can do! There's just so many places that I could go with my art, and I want to do as much of it as I can.



What made you interested in Graphic Design?

Graphic design is something that I've been interested in ever since I was about eleven years old, when I first discovered the MS Paint program on our "old school" computer and I started using the mouse to draw Furries (yes, that was definitely a thing =D). I was really active on a virtual pet website called Neopets, which is still around even today, and I loved drawing custom images of my little creatures! They also had a feature where you could design pages for your Neopets using HTML, so I learned how to code through this interest as well.

Sometime during the 4th year of my tattoo career, I hit a bit of a slump working at a tattoo shop where I was the only other artist aside from the owner, and I spent most of my time there by myself. I found myself lacking in inspiration and watching Netflix all day instead of working on my art, and I needed something to kick me back into gear. I'd considered college before I pursued tattooing, but I didn't want to saddle the debt of a big, expensive school. Now that I had a steady income, I signed up at the Community College of Denver, which was a much cheaper option. It worked to get me out of my slump, and it's also been an interesting and fun experience! I'm glad I went for it.



What are the differences between your styles of tattoo, painting and graphic art? What links them all together?

This is a really good question! With each medium, there are certain 'rules' that apply that are dictated by how it is applied and the intended way to view it. They also have different levels of malleability.

A good tattoo, for instance, is concerned with longevity and is on a canvas that constantly changes and is full of flaws. The art can't be too detailed, or it will blur together and become harder to 'read' as the tattoo ages. It takes a lot of planning in the design process to make sure that the tattoo subject matter is clear, that it fits on the body well and accentuates the canvas, that the colors go well together (you can always go darker with a tattoo, but never lighter, so you better know your color theory!). There is a technically correct way to apply the tattoo as well, and it will be fairly obvious if those particular rules are broken. Another interesting thing about tattooing is that it takes a two-dimensional form of art and applies it to a three-dimensional canvas. Because of all this, my tattoo art is more simplified than other forms. Tattoos are there forever, and once it's on there, it's very difficult to change, so I'd say that tattoos are the most limited medium I use.

With painting, you have a clean, blank, flat canvas that you can do so many things with, so there's a lot more freedom. There is no clear-set way of applying the paint, of what brushes to use, of how many times you can go over the same spot. If you don't like a color in an acrylic painting, you can simply paint over it with a new one. My paintings tend to have more detail and color; I occasionally paint in black and white, but colors are so much fun and open up so many possibilities in the feel of a painting. There are a lot of effects you can do with paint, be it acrylic, watercolor, or oil, that you just can't do with a tattoo.

Finally, graphic design is the most versatile medium. With graphic design, colors are extremely vibrant, and there's a certain level of perfection that can be achieved that is much more difficult to do with traditional mediums. I can get those perfect lines, that perfect gradient...and best of all, I can experiment with different color combinations on the same illustration with little effort. You can paint from scratch, manipulate photos, combine the two...the world is your oyster with digital art. The only downside is that the clean, refined nature of most digital art doesn't fit all subject matter, and some people prefer the look and feel of traditional mediums, but the vast freedom it affords is why digital art is my favorite medium right now.

The thing that links all these together? No matter what medium you choose, you're creating. And that is a wonderful thing.



What next form of art will you take up? Photography?

Haha, funny you should mention that...I took a photography class last semester, and I had a lot of fun with it. I knew absolutely nothing about how to use a digital camera that wasn't just a point-and-shoot, so there was definitely a learning curve with it, and it gave me a huge appreciation for the art form. I don't know that I have enough passion for it to pursue it as part of my body of work, but since I do use photo reference for some of my paintings, I think it'll be an immensely helpful skill when it comes to future work.



If you weren't an artist what job do you think you would have and why that job in particular?

Oh jeez...the only other job I had before I began my apprenticeship was working at a Jamba Juice inside a grocery store. I haven't been in the “normal” work force for so long that I don't know if I could go back! I do enjoy writing and have published a couple things, so perhaps I would be a blogger or something of that nature. I really enjoy being self-employed, so I think I'd eventually have gravitated towards that no matter what. Would the art of the written word still count as being an artist? =D



Do you prefer to do custom designs or your own work?

Hmmm, it really depends. I do find a certain amount of pleasure from taking an idea that's in someone else's head and bringing it out for them to see out in the world. It makes me feel like a magician! However, you'll occasionally get people who try to micromanage you...people who aren't familiar with the rules of design or who aren't visual people...who are resistant to your input, even if you have professional experience and want to help them achieve a better result. Those can be a bit of a nightmare to work with, depending on how resistant they are. I think the best combination is when I can take a person's idea and add my own flair to it, a bit of a collaboration between two ways of thinking. Those can yield amazing and unique results!



Now that you do graphic art and painting do you find yourself gravitating more towards them over tattooing?

Sometimes I do, depending on what my head space is, but I don't think I could ever give up tattooing permanently. Someday I may have to (tattooing is tough on the back and hands especially), and I have graphic design as a Plan B, so to speak, but I absolutely love tattooing!



Do you prefer Oreo or Fudgee-O cookies?

Cheesecake! Out of the two, I guess I'd have to go with the Fudge-Os, though I haven't seen them in forever.

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